When it comes to inspiration, the UK’s biggest retailers are increasingly looking abroad. Not wanting indies to miss out, Tom Gockelen-Kozlowski went in search of the lessons and innovations available the key global convenience markets.

Forgive us for stating the obvious, but convenience retailing is, by its very nature, a local business. The customers who use your shop, the wholesalers you visit and even the suppliers you work with are in some way all rooted in the direct geography in which you operate.

This being the case, why has RN decided to focus on the international convenience market? Why are we bringing into focus the trends, innovations and business models that exist in parts of the world with different cultures, needs, infrastructures and consumer expectations? The answer, as is so often the case, can be found by looking at the major supermarkets.

Their relevance to independent retailers is underlined on a daily basis in stores across the UK: when they open branches a mile away from your store, invest millions of pounds in new store formats, use their buying power to force impossible-to-emulate promotions and when suppliers respond by providing independents with channel-specific products and deals in an effort to claw back their margins.

Yet, this isn’t the whole story.

In our increasingly globalised world, major UK retailers are also looking to expand into other markets. So Marks & Spencer has made inroads into the Dutch market, among others, Asda’s owner Walmart finds its US base is providing opportunities to trial student-friendly campus stores and the company is making inroads into the Chinese market too. Even less obvious competition, such as coffee and food-to-go providers Starbucks and McDonald’s, have vast retail estates that cross hundreds of countries’ borders.

Every market in which these companies operate provides them with a vast amount of experience and an enormous opportunity to experiment with where, how and why the next retail evolution will work. Even where retailers get burned, as was the case with Tesco’s retreat from the US earlier this year after the failure of its Fresh & Easy chain, it can be taken for granted that the positive and less positive lessons learned from Tesco’s experience will be trawled over in an effort to improve its business in all markets, including the UK.

However, while Spar is a convenience name that crops up around the world, this global experience isn’t available to the average independent retailer to learn from. So this month, we’ve taken a virtual world tour and searched out the information you’re missing: the great new ideas, the best practice that shows you how to do local right and the elements of convenience retailing that remain the same, whether you’re setting up next to a desert or an alpine lake.

Ready for the trip? Click on the next page to find out more.